Liverpool were down a goal. Liverpool were down to 10 men. Liverpool were not, it seems fair to say, playing good football—and hadn’t been even before Virgil van Dijk found himself dismissed somewhat controversially for a foul as the last man back.
None of that mattered in the end, though. Because Darwin Nuñez walked onto the pitch as a 77th minute substitute and proceeded to score two goals and earn himself a yellow card to send the Reds home victorious from their away day at Newcastle United.
“I think in my 1,000 games as a manager I’ve never had a game like this, that’s the truth,” manager Jürgen Klopp said following the 2-1 victory. “Not that we never turned games around, but 10 men in an atmosphere like this against an opponent like this.
“I’m pretty sure it never happened because these moments are rare and super special, but I thought the boys deserved it because with 10 men we played better and gave Newcastle a proper game. Before that we felt under pressure when we didn’t have to.”
The introduction on Nuñez—and of Diogo Jota shortly before him—and an increasingly confident and passive opponent turned the game unexpectedly. Instead of a demoralizing defeat, it’s an unlikely and invigorating victory. Now, they have to build on it.
“We have to create a spirit,” Klopp added, looking ahead. “That’s how it is. We are early in the season, the atmosphere and the understanding of the boys is super, we had top camps. All of is great. But the spirit is something different so it’s what you make of it.
“Big stories need key moments and we will see what it is. I cannot sit here and say, ‘okay, where we are now we know how it goes.’ No. We have new key players, we have to create key moments, and this today was a key moment. That’s why I’m pretty happy.”